GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- As his team stretched before a practice earlier this week, Florida coach Billy Donovan walked up to me and motioned toward his newest Gator.
That would be redshirt sophomore Alex Murphy, who arrived last week after transferring from Duke.
“He’s going to be good for us,” Donovan said with a smile.
The 6-foot-8, 220-pound Murphy won’t be eligible to suit up for UF until after the 2014 fall semester ends next December. From there, he’ll have one and half seasons of eligibility remaining.
Between now and his first UF game, however, the younger brother of former Gators standout Erik Murphy will be indoctrinated into the way things are done in the Florida program, making the transition from practice to games virtually seamless when his time comes next season.
Following Tuesday’s practice, Murphy had a brutal training session -- alongside fellow newcomer Chris Walker (the two are pictured above on the UF bench during Sunday's Savannah State game -- with strength and conditioning coach Preston Greene, after which he was handed two protein shakes to guzzle down. The plan is for Murphy, who’s a very different player than his big brother, to have a very different look to him (physically) when the games roll around.
He and I chatted about that and some other things.
Chris: I know you just got here, but how’s the transition been so far?
Alex: “I feel really comfortable. I know the program. My brother was here. I’ve been here before. They recruited me. Coming in now, it’s been easy. So far, so good.”
Chris: You went to Duke with a lot of fanfare, a high-profile recruit, but you didn’t play very much there. What was the experience like?
Alex: “Obviously, it was very frustrating for me, but I understand a lot more about what happened there than maybe I did before. I matured a lot in my time there. I understand there are certain reasons why I wasn’t on the court as much as I wanted to be and a lot of those reasons fell on me. I take responsibility for that.”
Chris: Sometimes a change of scenery can work wonders.
Alex: “Having been in college for 2 1/2 years now, I’ve learned a lot. Coming in, I thought it was going to be a lot easier than it was. Coming out of high school, you’re a highly regarded player, you tend to think you’re going to step right in and blend right in. Well, there’s a lot of talent at Duke, as you know, so it takes time and it takes hard work. You have to be invested in that work -- and the team. It’s a team game. I’m here now and the new guy, but I’ve been watching these guys since my brother was here. There’s a lot of individual talent here too, but I’ve learned that individuals look best when they’re playing within the team and when the team plays well. My work ethic is much better than it was before. I was never lazy, but I’ve learned to get where you want to get, you have to take things to another level.”
Chris: How tough will it be doing that work every day, but without any games for the next 11 months?
Alex: “It’s definitely going to be hard. Really hard. I wish I could play right now with this team. I’ve watched this team and played against a lot of these guys when we were playing AAU. It’s a great group. I can tell from my first few days these guys really like each other and there’s really good camaraderie. But there’s been some really good players come through here as transfers and had some good success with Coach Donovan. I want to be another one of those guys. And I’ll put in the work to do it.”
Chris: The coaches here expect you to contribute this season, though, by giving this team your best at practice and good looks on the scout team.
Alex: “For sure. I want to push these guys every day. I want them to get as good as they can be. I just got here, but once I get adjusted I will not be in a mode where I’m laying back. I’m going to work on my game, but also help theirs.”
Chris: Let’s talk about your game versus Erik’s. He was a stretch-4 guy, but you’re more of a true perimeter, face-the-basket and get-to-rim guy, right?
Alex: “My game is very different from Erik’s. I’m more of a wing player. I handle the ball better than Erik. I don’t shoot as well as Erik, but that’ll be one of my focuses here. I’m probably a better athlete. He’s taller than me. I don’t know if I’m still growing, but I know I’m going to get bigger and stronger working with that guy [Preston Greene]. But there are certain players who have been here in the past, like Corey Brewer and Chandler Parsons, who I see myself playing like and in that kind of role. Chandler is a guy I watched when he was here. He played a lot of position, handled the ball, put it down, that kind of thing. I want to be that type of player.”
Chris: Eventually, you’re going to be a guy who can say he played for both Mike Krzyzewski and Billy Donovan. Those are two of the biggest names in college basketball history. I know you just got here, but can you see any similarities in the two so far?
Alex: “Give me a couple weeks and I’ll get back to you on that one. I’m sure there are tons of similarities because they’ve both had a ton of success. I learned a lot from Coach K. He really helped me in my time there. ... I don’t think he was very happy when I left, but I think he understood I was doing what was best for me. That’s one thing I respect about him. He was always honest with me, just like I was always honest with him.”